Yesterday we counted down from 10 the toughest road trips in Raptors history. We got to the sixth spot, which featured a Marquis Daniels explosion and a bit too much Milt Palacio. It was a different time.
Anyway, now we’re ready for it: Part two of the Top 10 Toughest Road Trips in Raptors History. Ready? We begin at number five...
#5: January 17th, 2011 – January 22nd, 2011
Average ELO: 1,581.68
Summary: A funky East-West-East road-trip offers only one respite for a Raps team that would lose 60 games that season, an opener against an equally as putrid Wizards (1,348). Calderon and Bargnani scored 20 for Toronto, but Nick Young countered with 29 and JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche each had double-doubles in a 98-95 loss. (Young? McGee? Blatche? The Wizards must have had some fun road-trips.)
In game two the Raps would actually lead for 33 minutes, but Jarrett Jack (screw you Jarrett Jack!) scored six straight late in the third to give the Hornets (1,538) the lead, and then assisted on David West’s bucket late in the 4th to seal a 85-81 loss. The Spurs (1,701) beat the Raps in a professional matter — because Spurs — and then the wheels fell off as the Dwight-Mare would put up a 31-19 as the Magic (1,657) brutalized the Raps 65-31 in the second half of a 102-72 beat-down. A clearly demoralized Raps went into South Beach and got whupped by 17 by the Heat (1,664), despite Bosh and Wade both sitting.
Interesting Stat: DeMar DeRozan led the Raps in scoring for the final four games of the trip — the first time in his young career he managed the feat, and something he wouldn’t do again for over a year.
Depressing Stat: The Raps were in the middle of a 13-game losing streak — as part of a awful 10-37 “stretch”.
Bonus Pain: The Raps’ first game at home after this would be the “F’ing Rudy Gay” game.
#4: February 20th, 2015 – February 24th, 2015
Average ELO: 1,587.758
Summary: A brutal “four games in five nights” trip is made worse by all the teams but the Pellies (a respectable 1,477), having ELO over 1,600.
The swing starts well as the Raps absolutely thump the East-leading Hawks by 25, holding Atlanta to just 33-percent shooting. After that though, it gets a bit hairy. In Houston (1,610), the Raps don’t lead at all in the second half as nobody can hit the broadside of the barn, except James “Bloodsport” Johnson, who racked up 27 points in a 98-76 loss. The Raps then drop a heart-breaker in New Orleans as the Pelicans (1,477) win despite leading for just 1:45 all game. The difference? The Raps bench goes 5-21, while the Hornets three leading scorers all come off the pine. The second back-to-back of the trip saps the Dinos’ legs as they get beat by ten in the fourth quarter of a seven-point loss. Dirk and Monta Ellis pace the Mavericks (1,615), but it’s super-pest J.J. Barea who scores the first five points of the final quarter to give Dallas a lead they’d never relinquish.
Interesting Stat: Lou Williams drilled 7-of-10 from beyond the arc to help bury the Hawks, tying him with Kyle Lowry and Morris Petersen for the highest single game 3-pt shooting percentage (at least ten attempts) in Raps history.
Depressing Stat: The losses were part of a 1-9 skid that would be the exclamation point on a second-half swoon the Raps never fully recovered from — ending in a crushing playoff sweep at the hands of the Wiz.
#3: December 20th, 2013 – December 27th, 2013
Average ELO: 1,592.108
Summary: The only winning record in the top 10 sees the Raps playing some of their best basketball in that magic season that was meant to be a tank job. DeRozan hits a jumper with 17 seconds to send the game to OT and wins it with a minute left as the Mavericks (1,531) miss a combined four lay-ups in the final seconds of regulation and OT to give the Raps the win 109-108.
KD and Westbrook combine for 51 points, but the Thunder’s bench (1,713) goes 10-31. The Raps score just 13 in the third quarter, but roar back in the final frame to outscore OKC by 15 and win 104-98.
The Spurs (1,696) do Spurs-y things, as the Raps lead for barely over a minute in a game that’s close through three but sees San Antonio pull away late — led by Tony Parker’s 26 points.
The Raps again get a big fourth quarter, outscoring the Knickerbockers (1,427) 29-12 to win 95-83. DeRozan drops 25 to top Andrea Bargnani’s 18 for NY. John Salmons hits a three early in the fourth to give the Raps the lead for good.
Interesting Stat: Salmons hits a big bucket in all three wins —- a pair of threes set up DeMar’s tying shot in the trip’s first game, while the small forward gave Toronto the lead for good over the Thunder by hitting a pair of free-throws with 1:25 left.
John Salmons had good moments as a Raptor? Woah, woah, that is not the narrative that was presented to me.
Depressing Stat: The Raps won the damn road trip! What do you have to be depressed about? (Oh... you read ahead…)
#2: March 11th, 2008 – March 17th, 2008
Average ELO: 1,601.722
Record: 0-5 (Yeah, you read ahead.)
Summary: The Raps play three 1,600+ teams, and a fourth — Denver, that comes in just a hairbreadth short (at 1,594), and aren’t particularly close in any of them as they put up their longest losing streak of the season.
Kobe out-duels T.J. Ford 34-28 as the Raps lose 117-108 to the Lakers (1,687) — and don’t have a lead after the 9-minute mark of the second period.
In the Bay, the Raps fall down by 18 early to the Dubs (1,623), but crawl all the way back to take a one-point lead with six minutes remaining on a Ford free throw. But the Warriors outscore the Raps by 12 down the stretch to win 117-106. Monta Ellis has 33 for Golden State, while the Boom Dizzle adds 23.
The third game is never in doubt as the Raps go down 21 after one, and give up 79 points in the first half to the A.I. and Melo-led Nuggets. But at least Hump shoots a perfect six for six from the floor?
The trip goes from bad to worse, as the Raps fall to an arguably inferior Kings squad (1,441) — what else is new? — who basically lead wire-to-wire and see every starter hit double figures, including Mikki Moore (?) in the 106-100 loss.
A back-to-back in Utah (1,663) is the perfect way to end this stinker. The Raps actually stick around for three quarters as Jamario Moon (!) ties the game late in the Q, but any hope of salvaging the trip dies in Utah’s thin air, as the Raps get outscored by 14 in the final frame. Paul Millsap and Kyle Kover crush Toronto’s second unit to lead the Jazz to the 96-79 victory.
Interesting Stat: Jason Kapono scores 26 to lead Toronto in the Sacramento loss, but only makes two treys — neatly encapsulating everything that was wrong with his career.
Depressing Stat: Through the five games the Raps lead for a total of 16 minutes and thirty-seven seconds, more than half of that in the first two quarters of the very first game.
#1: December 22nd, 2014 – January 4th, 2015
Average ELO: 1,608.626
Summary: A trip that is etched in the mind of every Raptors fan (and second from the 2014-2015 season to make the list), sees the Dinos start on a back-to-back, go without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, do that odd ‘East to West’ roadie thing, play four teams with ELO 1,614 or better (Bulls, Clips, Blazers and Warriors), and starts a tailspin that short-circuits what had been arguably the most promising season in Toronto history.
It starts with the Raps blowing a 12-point third quarter lead in a 129-120 loss to the Bulls (1,614). Weirdly, Jimmy Butler doesn’t even lead the Bulls in scoring, that honour goes to Derrick Rose — who scores 14 of Chicago’s forty-nine points in the final quarter.
After that the Raps got back on track a bit, beating a good Clips (1,635) team 110-98 as Lowry and Valanciunas both score 20+. Then, Toronto overcomes a back-to-back and the always tough Denver environs to hang a 116-102 loss on the Nuggets (1,460) as Lowry and Lou Williams each score 30.
Things start to go wrong in Portland (1,668) as Toronto builds a 17 point lead at recess, only to blow it. They force OT on Amir’s put-back with five seconds left, but the defense falls apart in extra time, giving up 15 points in just five minutes to lose 102-97.
The defensive issues continue as the Warriors (1,695) wax the Raps by 21. Golden State shoot 53 percent from the field as Curry, Thompson and Marreese Speights all score 20 or more for the Dubs.
The nadir of the trip comes as the Raps allow a decent Suns (1,579) team to shoot 54 percent — with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe carving up the Raps backcourt defense in the 125-109 loss — a trend that would continue the rest of the year.
Interesting Stat: A parade of quick, aggressive guards from Aaron Brooks to Eric Bledsoe put the Raps defense on their heals, shooting 52 percent over the trip, foreshadowing the woes to come. By season’s end the Raps have slid out of the top 10 in Defensive Rating all the way down to 25th.
Sorry, did I say “Interesting Stat”? I meant “Soul Crushing Memory.”
Depressing(er) Stat: After starting the year an East best 22-6, the Raps stumble along at 25-23 for the rest of the season, ending with the aforementioned humbling at the hands of the Wizards, who just so happen to have a quick aggressive back-court that can score.
Honourable Mention: It doesn’t make the list because of the presence of truly putrid Suns (1,339) and Lakers (1,362) teams, but the six-gamer the Raps went on last year from December 23rd to January 3rd is the only trip in team history to see the Raps battle two teams with 1,700+ ELO. The 1,751 Warriors, and 1,708 Spurs. The Raps went 3-3, ending it with a — you guessed it — loss to the Spurs.
So, after all that, where does the current trip rate? Would it top the list, what with the worst team, the Lakers, looking shockingly frisky, and having added some serious ELO points by upsetting the East-leading Wiz?
No. Not quite, but it’s close. Right now, the trip slots in at the #8 position (1,574 ELO), but depending how the Nuggets and Jazz fare before Toronto comes to town this trip has the potential to be one of the five-toughest by opponent in team history. The new NBA scheduling rules, which mercifully keep the Raps from playing any back-to-backs on this trip, definitely make the journey a little more manageable. But fans should keep from tossing themselves off the closest tall structure, even if things end 3-3.
After all, if this exercise has taught us anything it’s this: road-trips are hard.